Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "He Keeps Me Singing"1 (Lyrics)
Luke 2:49 – "Why were you searching for me?" [Jesus] asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (NIV)
These two probing questions, spoken by Jesus to His fretful parents, are found in the one and only account of Jesus' youth. I admit, for years, it seemed to me that Jesus was rather sharp toward His parents. Now, I find myself appropriately chastened by Jesus' words. Let me explain:
After a frantic, three-day search, Mary and Joseph find their missing son back in Jerusalem, chatting with the temple teachers. As any worried mother would do, Mary confronts Jesus: "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." (Luke 2:48b NIV)
Shouldn't Jesus feel badly for making His parents suffer anxiety, never mind the exhaustion and the frustration from wasting three days on the road? Shouldn't He at least apologize? But Jesus assumes no responsibility for their anxiety. He won't let Mary shift the blame to Him. Being anxious instead of trusting God is their problem — not His. Through His question, "Why were you searching for me?" Jesus helps them to discover the driving motive behind their decision to search — which, as He would have seen, was their anxiety. Jesus doesn't provide the answer. He encourages them to think for themselves. It is a wise and gracious way of stirring them on toward deepening faith.
Unlike Jesus, I've often reacted to anxious people by feeling overly responsible to fix their woes. I've done too much of the thinking for them; I've even assumed blame. To me, this felt like the loving thing to do. No wonder Jesus' response to His mother has seemed insensitive to me.
As we see, Jesus does not pamper anxiety — for a good reason: Anxiety is like a vise grip that inhibits our ability to think and choose well. We assume that our distress is caused by factors outside of ourselves. But really, no person or situation has the power to make us anxious — unless we allow it. I've discovered this through hard knocks — and my own frantic "three-day" strategizings. Thankfully, no rescuer intercepted those learning experiences by offering quick escapes.
As long as we depend on others to dull our anxieties, we are never fully free to enjoy a vibrant faith. Likewise, as long as we feel responsible to appease other people's anxiety, we cannot be who we were meant to be. That's a dead-end mission which deprives everyone of opportunities to grow in trustful faith. This is not the path of love for others, for ourselves, nor ultimately for God.
In the one story of Jesus' youth, we can see that He had a firm grasp of the great commandment, the royal law of love. What a powerful example for us! We, too, can respond to fretfulness by shifting the focus from self-absorbed anxiety to careful thoughtfulness. In this way, we offer a refreshing "cup of water". We open the way to restful trust.
Prayer: Lord, train us to be effective managers of anxiety. May we develop the habit of casting all our anxieties on You — be they our own anxieties or those of others — so that Your kingdom may grow in and among us and Your will may be done on earth. Amen.